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Three things to watch: Big men, pressure D and Tucker

Maryland is suggesting that people not drive to this afternoon's game (please see the previous blog post). The game will be televised, so please be judicious when deciding whether or not to trek to Comcast Center today. As for the game, Maryland will look to continue its strong start to conference play, while North Carolina will look to snap a two-game losing streak. Here are a few things to keep track of during today's contest:

1) Frontcourt rotation. Landon Milbourne, Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory (and James Padgett?) will have their hands full today against the Tar Heels. It's not just that they'll have to try to contain North Carolina forwards Deon Thompson (6-foot-9) and Ed Davis (6-foot-10) -- the Tar Heels' top scoring options -- they'll also have to deal with North Carolina's plethora of size off the bench. Three of the Tar Heels' top reserves are Travis Wear (6-foot-10), David Wear (6-foot-10) and John Henson (6-foot-10). Now, the trio of Milbourne, Williams and Gregory have proven quite capable this of battling against bigger frontcourts, so it's not as if they'll be in new territory. Still, North Carolina ranks No. 1 in the ACC in conference play in rebounding margin (+4.3), so the challenge will be just as critical today. Plus, as Coach Gary Williams noted Saturday, "it's a very deep inside team. Fouls don't really play a part in the way they play in terms of their inside defense."

2) Defensive pressure. North Carolina ranks last in the ACC in conference play in turnover margin (-4.1), which means the Tar Heels will be susceptible to Maryland's press defense. If the Terrapins can jump out front early with some steals and easy transition points, that will make their half-court offensive execution all the more frustrating (and time-consuming) for North Carolina to deal with as the game progresses.

3) Cliff Tucker. The junior reserve guard has been a little quiet as of late, but what better opponent for him to make a resurgence against? Tucker had a great deal of success against the Tar Heels last season, and this year's North Carolina squad is nowhere near as talented as last year's. Obviously, success against a particular opponent doesn't necessarily transfer from one season to the next, but Tucker has proven that he can perform well against the Tar Heels in the past. It sure would help Maryland's cause if he could do so again today.

By Steve Yanda  |  February 7, 2010; 9:24 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Maryland pummels North Carolina with 92-71 win


What a difference a year makes. The challenge for the Terps this year is not to take the game for granted. It's hard to fathom that they would. Another way of thinking about it is that, of all years, this would be a horrible one to lose.

We can bet that UNC will really be ready to play. Another loss at VTech, travel nightmare, cooped up in the hotel in College Park in the middle of a blizzard. Last year's loss doesn't mean much to more than a few Tar Heels as most weren't there. They will probably come out with a lot of energy.

This is a good challenge: Win a game we should be expected to win against a school that has a long history of expecting to win. Role reversal... something our guys should relish... a chance to prove themselves in a different way.

Bring it on!

Posted by: petecard | February 7, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

For everyone that has opined about the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, you really must read John Feinstein's column in today's WP. Here are a few tid bits:

"All of which makes the current debate over expansion of the NCAA men's basketball tournament entirely predictable. There is not one single reason to expand the tournament -- not one.

"Oh sure, there are a few coaches in the major conferences who whine every year when their team with a 7-9 conference record and 10 cupcake wins on its home court doesn't make the field. There are the TV talking heads who talk about "deserving teams" that are left out, too. Whether they are deserving is questionable at best. The fact that teams actually have to play well to reach postseason is part of the tournament's magic. In fact, the tournament should be made smaller -- one team smaller -- returning the number of tournament teams to 64."

"Now though, we are staring a 96-team field right in the face. Many people who have had contact with NCAA decision-makers recently say it is a "done deal." The NCAA will only admit it is studying "models" that would involve tournament expansion. What the heck is a model, some kind of Dick Vitale video game?"

"Here's the truth of what is going on right now: The NCAA has the right to opt out of its 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS this summer. ESPN-ABC has already made it crystal clear that if the contract is reopened it will throw huge Disney dollars at the NCAA to try to take the tournament away from CBS."

That will probably mean more TV timeouts, even longer games and even more corporate mentions. "These free throws are brought to you by . . . "

"But that won't be enough. Whichever network forks over the insane dollars the NCAA will ask for will need more games to even have a chance to break even. That's the only reason a 96-team tournament is being considered. It has nothing to do with making the tournament better -- it won't. Imagine a first round in which the highest-seeded teams playing are the No. 9 seeds in each region. And don't buy the hoo-ha that this will be good for the little guys because they'll get more bids. You can bet most of the extra bids will go to those deserving 10th-place teams in the ACC, Big East and Big Ten. If there were 96 teams in the field this year, the entire ACC might get in. Wow, talk about a meaningful regular season."

John lays it all out there and it is a must read.

I especially liked his comment about one of my favorite words... "mediocrity."

"People know mediocrity when they see it. A coach who consistently gets into the tournament from a major conference as a No. 22 seed and never gets out of the second round is going to be fired. Making the tournament will be devalued by 96 teams the same way 500 home runs has been devalued by steroids."

I rest my case.

Posted by: petecard | February 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The response to that is why do people feel so passionately about limiting the tourney size? What's the harm of one more round of games? Being a 22 seed will be good for some schools and not good for others. For example, if you go to Miami game, the Canes have prominent banners commemorating NIT appearances. At Maryland, those are embarrassing seasons. The bottom line is there will be another few days of games and nobody should have a problem with that.

Posted by: epdaly | February 7, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

You know you're lost the argument when you are reduced to quoting John Feinstein, one of the biggest hacks in journalism.

They are going to expand one way or another, the tourney will be fine, the conference tourneys will be fine, and everyone will get used to it in a year or two. Deal with it.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 7, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm feeling a big game from Mosley today.


Posted by: DMoney28 | February 7, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Garo1, but I will take Feinstein over your opinions any day. By the way, at this hour you should be concentrating on getting your team ready to play...

Posted by: petecard | February 7, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Dear Toothless Redneck Illiterate Florida State Fans,

Thank you so much for firing up Greivis with your racism. He's completely in the zone now.

Posted by: Kev29 | February 7, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Up by 23 with 4 min to play.

In the words of Duke from Rocky 4

"Throw the damn towel!!!!"

Posted by: fushezzi | February 7, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Great win by the Terps. The young Heels definitely folded up at the end in the face of strong Terps pressure.

@Kev29: what did FSU fans say to Vasquez?

Posted by: dc_attorney | February 7, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Dc_attorney, see Yanda's blog about this from the day after the FSU game. They yelled a bunch of racist crap at Vasquez and held signs with things like "Deport Vasquez".

Posted by: Barno1 | February 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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